|KRON4 movie critic Jan Wahl joins the San Francisco Gay Chorus for the HIV/AIDS fundraiser Lights, Camera, Action! March 6 at the Marineâs Memorial Theatre.
Itâs hard to say which came first, Jan Wahlâs love for films or her appreciation and commitment to the LGBT community.
As San Franciscoâs favorite movie critic, Wahlâs extensive knowledge of Hollywood â and massive collection of fabulous hats â are well-documented. Her critiques of todayyâs hottest films and celebrity interviews appear everywhere from KRON-TV (Channel 4) to the San Francisco Examiner. Whatâs lesser-known, perhaps, is that Wahl is also a long-time supporter of all things gay and frequent fundraiser, especially for causes closest to her heart, like those affecting the LGBT community.
On Sat., March 6, Wahl joins San Francisco Gay Menâs Chorus specialty ensembles The Lollipop Guild and Vocal Minority, who are making their debut in downtownâs theatre district, for two performances of Lights, Camera, Action! Scheduled on the eve of the Academy Awards at the Marines Memorial Theatre, the event showcases some of the silver screenâs most memorable music while raising money for Bay Area HIV/AIDS service organizations.
In preparation for the event, and in anticipation of Hollywoodâs biggest night of the year, the woman who describes herself as âjust an old drag queen who bleeds sequinsâ is this weekâs Bay Times âSpotlight.â
(Bay Times) Go out on a limb and make your Oscars predictions. Who are going to be the big winners this year?
(Wahl) I think Avatar has a very good chance for Best Picture. [James Cameron] managed to use this new technology and make a film where, the last half is incredible! You stay with it. You feel it. You live it. I think Katherine Bigelow, because people are ready â finally! â for a woman to get Best Director. Itâs not the best movie, or even the movie I voted for, but I think sheâs going to get it. For Best Actor, I think itâs going to be Jeff Bridges. Itâll be the Jimmy Stewart Philadelphia Story award. That award was actually for [his role in] Mr. Smith Goes to Washingon. So this award will actually be for all the movies Jeff Bridges has made and all the people who love working with him. Heâs been nominated before but never won, so heâs very popular. I think heâll get it, but itâs not who I would have voted for. The woman, I think, will be Sandra Bullock for a very good, subtle, non-show-off â how do you say that? â performance in The Blind Side. Itâs the award Julia Roberts got for Erin Brockovich. Itâs the award for what we donât expect, since we donât expect Sandra Bullock to do this. Itâs a surprisingly powerful movie I highly recommend. And, of course, MoâNique for PreciousâŠand Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Bastards.
Youâre doing Lights, Camera, Action! â a concert with the Gay Mennâs Chorus which focuses on music in film. How did the Gay Menâs Chorus rope you into this?
Oh, they donât rope me in! Iâd do anything to be part of the Gay Menâs Chorus. For years Iâve been doing things with the Gay Menâs Chorus.
Sometimes Donna Sachet and I do Christmas Eve with them at the Castro Theatre. Itâs such a spiritual high for me. The Gay Menâs Chorus is just the most amazing organization. My God, look what they do! They go around the world being the most wonderful ambassadors for us. They have beautiful voices. Theyâre guys from all walks of life. They just make my heart soar like an eagle. I think thatâs a line from Little Big Man, but thatâs what I mean. Itâs just amazing what they do, so anytime they ask me to do anything, I say yes. We did a â60s type of event with Joan Baez at Davies Symphony Hall. And itâs always a fundraiser with the Gay Menâs Chorus. This one is for the Academy of Friends [with proceeds going to various Bay Area HIV/AIDS service organizations]. The Gay Menâs Chorus is like the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Theyâre always raising money for organizations which help the GLBT community, and thatâs the community which has my heart. Thatâs the community I am blessed to feel part of and love so deeply. I love these guys! And this is the Lollipop Guild. Theyâre a great little off-shoot of the Gay Menâs Chorus. Theyâre so talented, and they sing from the heart. They swing. They rock. I just love it! I love being part of it.
For so long you have been incredibly supportive of the gay community. You say you love and feel part of us. How did that come about?
Good question, Paul. Thank you for asking. I grew up in West Los Angeles, very fortunately with parents who had gay friends. I grew up with gay men and women. When I was a little girl, there was a bookstore in Hollywood where my mother would drop me off on her way to the market. I mean when I was a little girl. There were these gay guys there who used to work in the [film] studios. Some worked for the studios when there were silent movies. They were older, retired studio guys who all hung around collecting movie memorabilia at this one bookstore, which is now closed, the Cherokee Bookstore on Hollywood Blvd. My mom knew these guys, and I started hanging out with them as a little girl. They showed me the old Photoplay magazines, telling me stories about Norma Shearer and Jean Harlow, Valentino. I just fell in love with classic Hollywood through them and also my parents, who were very much about showing us old movies. My mom had gay women friends, too, who were over at our house and just part of the world. I came to, at a very early age, just love that community! First of all, drag queens are more âHollywoodâ than todayâs Hollywood! With drag queens, the glamour they bring is just part of what I love about Hollywood. The gay women who are the strong actresses, writers. You know, everybody fought the good fight! Gay people just âget me.â (She becomes emotional.) They get me in a way nobody else does. They know what Iâm fighting for: Iâm fighting for strong women. Iâm fighting for glamour. Iâm fighting for fun and over-the-top and cheering for the underdog. These are all things which are part of the GLBT community.
Iâve always believed every element of Hollywood has been touched by the LGBT community.
Youâre absolutely right! Set decorators, directors, actors â even the poor actors and actresses who arenât able to come out â writers, lighting, props, everything. Itâs completely integrated, even if people arenât allowed to come out. And songwriters! My God! There are so many stories I could tell. Remember that Kevin Costner film â it was awful â Waterworld? I went to the set of that in Hawaii, and I thought, âOh, I can tell nobody gay worked on this film!â It was so boring, so dull. And all the women were just boring and not smart lesbians. I remember thinking, âCan we please get somebody LGBT in here?â And certainly music in film! Iâm not sure the music [the Gay Menâs Chorus will] be singing, but I think of âThe Wind Beneath My Wingsâ from Beaches or âOld Time Rock ân Rollâ from Risky Business or âThe Streets of Philadelphiaâ from Philadelphia. There are a lot of things which pertain to the community. âMrs. Robinsonâ from The Graduate. â9 to 5,â the Dolly Parton number or even âYou Can Leave Your Hat Onâ from 9-1/2 Weeks, of course I like that one! And certainly âDiamonds Are a Girlâs Best Friendâ from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Off the top of my head, these are all songs which pertain to the LGBT community, so letâs get out there and sing, celebrate and have fun!
Tickets to Lights, Camera, Action! Are $27-39. More information at http://www.SFGMC.org